Mary Wortley Montagu, 1689-1762

Portrait

Biographical note

Letter-writer, was the eldest daughter of the 1st Duke of Kingston. In her youth she combined the attractions of a reigning beauty and a wit. Her early studies were encouraged and assisted by Bishop Burnet, and she was the friend of Pope, Addison, and Swift. In 1712 she married, against the wishes of her family, Edward Wortley–Montagu, a cousin of the celebrated Charles Montagu, afterwards Earl of Halifax. Her husband having been appointed Ambassador to the Porte, she accompanied him, and wrote the sparkling Letters from the East which have given her a place high among the great letter-writers of the world. While in Turkey she became acquainted with the practice of inoculation against smallpox, which she did much to introduce into western countries. After her return to England she settled at Twickenham, and renewed her friendship with Pope, which, however, ended in a violent quarrel, arising out of her publication of Town Eclogues. She was furiously attacked by both Pope and Swift, and was not slow to defend herself. In 1737, for reasons which have never been explained, she left her husband and country, and settled in Italy. Mr. Montagu having died 1761, she returned at the request of her daughter, the Countess of Bute, but died the following year.

[From A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John W. Cousin, 1910]

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